Politics Insider

Did Trudeau learn anything on Monday night?

Politics Insider for Oct. 23: Inside the Liberal re-election, why Trudeau needs to do better and what the election outcome means for the SNC-Lavalin inquiry

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For many, Tuesday was a day made up of equal parts post-election deconstruction, and being thankful that the thing is finally over. We’ll spend most of today’s jam-packed Politics Insider talking about the former, with a dash of the latter.

Big read alert!: During the campaign Maclean’s political reporters and columnists fanned out across Canada. With the results of the vote still sinking in, here is the full 11,000-word story of how Justin Trudeau held onto power in an election that was paved with low points and sloppy moments in which there were no undiluted victories:

On its way to this equivocal ending, Campaign ’19 provided a rich harvest of low points. Take your pick. There was, for instance, a Chinese-language Facebook ad in which the Conservatives claimed—falsely—that the Liberals planned to legalize hard drugs. Less brazen, perhaps, was a Liberal social-media spot that ominously asked where the Conservatives would find the multibillion-dollar savings they’d need to implement their platform. The supposed answers popped up one by one. “Your Canada Child Benefit Cheques? Support for Seniors? Student Grants? Infrastructure Projects?” For the record, the Tories targeted only the last option.

Not exactly sticking to the high road, the NDP claimed Trudeau’s Liberals had doled out $14 billion in corporate tax cuts, allowing businesses to “buy jets and limousines,” in return for past donations from “billionaire families.” In fact, the donations tallied up by the NDP mostly predated Trudeau’s leadership. Anyway, the tax breaks in question were to let businesses write off machinery and equipment purchases, and were brought in to offset Trump’s massive U.S. tax cuts.

If the partisan claims were often dubious, or downright deceptive, the personal attacks were corrosive. “You are a phony and you are a fraud,” Scheer told Trudeau in a debate. Trudeau hit back by weaponizing Maxime Bernier, the ex-Tory who lost his Quebec seat while drawing anti-immigrant right-wingers to his People’s Party of Canada. “Mr. Bernier, your role on this stage tonight seems to be to say publicly what Mr. Scheer thinks privately,” Trudeau said in an obviously rehearsed one-line feat of defamatory mind reading.

It was that sort of campaign. Sometimes, more often than Canadians like to think, their elections turn mean. But this one’s down-and-dirty tone took hold in a way that nobody, not even the savviest campaign veteran, could have predicted—with the surfacing of some old snapshots. Read more ››

Staying put: In case you missed it, Scheer vowed on Tuesday that he will stay on as leader and challenge Trudeau in the next election. Clearly he wasn’t swayed by the 63 per cent of Canadians who told polling firm Ipsos that Scheer should resign for not securing a majority.

Victory lapse: Trudeau’s stunningly smug election-night victory speech — “You are sending our Liberal team back to work; back to Ottawa with a clear mandate” — rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, including some Liberals, Paul Wells writes. With Albertans feeling more alienated than ever after Trudeau’s re-election, it didn’t bode well:

In their first mandate, the Trudeau Liberals developed a knack for paying less and less attention to the parts of the country—geographic, demographic, socio-economic, ideological—where they could not expect a warm welcome. They are hardly the first party to do so. It’s a difficult urge to resist. It’s not obvious to me that the election results will discourage that urge. If this caucus could muster no empathy for Jane Philpott, who expects it to try harder with Alberta? Read more ››

Better get a move on: We actually have a two-fer from Wells today. Trudeau likes to say “it is always possible to do better.” Now that he has won reelection, Wells offers a few starting points for the Prime Minister:

Trudeau would do well to appoint a second transition team from outside his government to do what his first transition team did in 2015. Its first move could be to recommend the implementation of the report Trudeau commissioned from former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan to ensure nothing as appalling as the SNC-Lavalin affair happens to another attorney general. Its next move could be to forcefully demote a network of senior staffers who have acted as though cabinet ministers serve them when it should be the other way around. Its third could be to establish regular meetings between the Prime Minister and each of his ministers, because too many ministers have reported they could not even meet with Trudeau without assorted staffers encrusting the encounters like barnacles.

Doing all this would take humility and a willingness to put some friendly noses out of joint. But what’s the alternative? To proceed as though the Liberals got it all right the first time around. That a man who did not know, at the age of 29, that blackface is racist had learned, by the age of 43, everything there is to know about public administration. Read more ››

We’ve got a special collection of post-election goodies for you today:

  • On election day Maclean’s dispatched photographers to the ridings where the leaders of the Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green parties were running. Here’s what went down. Who had the most fun do you think? Arguably it wasn’t the children assembled on stage with Elizabeth May weeping over climate inaction.
  • To get a better sense of the MPs who will make up the House, Nick Taylor-Vaisey created this visual interactive dashboard, which tracks the gender, age and ethnic diversity (among other metrics) of Canada’s newest MPs.
  • In yesterday’s Politics Insider we shared transcripts for both Trudeau and Scheer’s post-election speeches. Here are two more to add to your collection — Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May.
  • Lastly, if you’re still feeling residual stress from the campaign, might we suggest viewing our nearly seven-hour election results video. Why seven hours? Because the entire electoral map was drawn by hand live and then coloured in as the results were announced.

Nailed it: Throughout the campaign 338Canada’s Philippe J. Fournier provided seat projections and polling analysis to Maclean’s. While Fournier tries to adjust to life without the daily deluge of polls, he reflects on the impressive accuracy of his 338Canada analytics model: “Overall, the winner was correctly identified in 299 of 338 districts (88 per cent). I had set the bar at 300 (damn you, Nunavut!), so it’s fairly respectable.”

What the Bloc wants: Stephen Maher looks at what the new Bloc Quebecois wave really means, and it’s not what you think:

The hard core sovereignists—les pur et dur—are tenacious and passionate about their dream but the voters who sent 32 MPs to Ottawa do not appear to have been animated by Levesque’s dream. In the two French-language debates where Blanchet won the support of francophone Quebecers, he spoke not of Levesque but of Legault, and not of separatism but of Bill 21, the law that Legault passed to stop Sikhs, Muslims and Jews from working as teachers, police or lawyers unless they leave their religious headgear at home. Read more ››

 May daze: Anne Kingston looks at why the much ballyhooed Green surge failed to become reality:

The fact she is roundly praised for her civility in the House and her effectiveness as a parliamentarian, and repeatedly named most “trusted” party leader in polls, didn’t count for much. Nor did the fact that May put a party without the 12 seats needed for official party status on the political map. What matters in politics is power, and power is something the grassroots Greens, with their call for collaboration, find problematic. Partisan politics is antithetical to the sort of co-operation necessary to fight climate change. Read more ››

Inquiring minds need to know: Despite Trudeau’s brazen effort to pass off his minority win as a commanding victory, the opposition parties should make a priority out of finally getting to the bottom of the SNC-Lavalin controversy, and Trudeau’s own actions in the matter, writes Andrew MacDougall:

To inject some humility into Trudeau’s proceedings, the NDP—and indeed any party in Parliament—should insist on one thing as a condition of their support of the government’s inaugural Throne Speech: a judicial inquiry into the SNC-Lavalin affair. It might have been Scheer’s idea on the campaign trail but it should become everyone’s policy now.

An inquiry wouldn’t, despite the inevitable Liberal criticisms, be an act of sour grapes. It would be a necessary corrective to the secrecy the Prime Minister continues to enforce on a matter in which he claims he’s done nothing wrong. Trudeau cannot be allowed govern with a cloud of potential illegality over his head and so, Prime Minister: it’s time to walk the walk. Now that you’re safely back in the saddle (ish) Canadians deserve to know the full story on SNC-Lavalin. Read more ››

Worth every wince: Lastly, as promised, Scott Gilmore reminds us that even as tedious as Election 2019 was to observe, we need to be continually grateful for this democratic headache we enjoy:

Now that the shouting is mostly over, now that the projections have become results, can we all take a moment to appreciate what just happened?

We treat elections like necessary evils. We moan about the quality of the candidates. We roll our eyes at their promises. We gripe about the scandals. We hold our nose and cast our vote. And then we turn back to our lives and try to ignore the bastards for another four years. In other words, we are among the luckiest humans to have ever lived. Read more ››